Pace: 91 possessions (irrelevant)
Offensive Efficiency: 108.8 points/100 possessions (elite but still deceptively low with garbage time)
Defensive Efficiency: 83.5 points allowed/100 possessions (holy cow)
Remember August? When the Shaq free-agent racewalk came down to the Celtics and the Hawks? Atlanta didn’t want Shaq to start, so in the end he signed with the Celtics for $1,352,181 this season. Remember how you reacted to that signing with mild shock/disgust/not at all?
That contract earned the Celtics a win tonight, and simultaneously cost the Hawks one. Because Shaq basically toyed with Al Horford tonight. He batted Horford around like he was a ball of yarn and Shaq was a giant 325-pound cat wearing size 22 EEE Li-Nings. Shaq was able to tip up rebounds three or four times in a row without Horford touching them. He had three Hulk jams in the first six minutes, and Horford smartly didn’t bother trying to foul on any of them because the two points were absolute fact.
Horford was leading the league in field-goal percentage among starters going into the game. He was 3-10 tonight, and 0-1 at the rim. By the time Shaq left the game for the first time, the C’s had a 15-point lead and the Hawks had been completely demoralized. He only played 21 minutes, but it was in those 21 minutes that he persuaded the opposition to give up.
So this was Shaq’s win. According to Tom Haberstroh’s work with the Wins Above Replacement Player statistic, teams paid on average about $2.23 million per win produced this offseason. So I guess that means that anything Shaq contributes from here on out is just, to use a metaphor he would appreciate, the icing on the cake.
Can he do this again? Hard to say, because he probably should have done it yesterday. Toronto, like Atlanta, doesn’t have much in the way of frontcourt size, but Shaq just didn’t finish that well against them. So who knows? Again, he’s making less than Avery Bradley this year, so we should accept whatever he deigns to give us.
I don’t want to ignore Kevin Garnett’s performance against Josh Smith tonight. Weirdly, Garnett started the game on offense as clumsily as he left off yesterday’s, just much luckier: he threw one transition pass away, fired an entry pass into the rim that Shaq somehow gathered and stuffed, and banked in a hook shot off his outer hip to set up a three-point play. But then Smith came down with mono or something. For much of the early game, it wasn’t that Smith couldn’t find a good shot, it was that his teammates couldn’t find him. And he did the absolute bare minimum to stop KG, someone Smith regularly frustrated last year, on the offensive end.
Smith and Joe Johnson sometimes play like they’re trying to punish their crappy home crowd, and it kind of seems like that’s what happened tonight. KG was great and all, but he may not have been as great as Josh Smith was bored.
This is going to sound like hyperbole, but this game was essentially over with 3:15 to go in the first. Nate sunk an ill-advised but nonetheless gangster pull-up three in transition to bring the score to 31-10, and the Hawks lost a crowd they only had about 60% of to begin with because Celtics fans were using Philips Arena as a winter rental. The game just slowed down after that.
The 39-point first quarter was their highest-scoring of the season (no surprise there). By the time it was over I completely forgot what happened over the weekend. I think I did some light cleaning but that’s about it.
Nate dumps the ball off to Shaq in the high post, then zips through the paint, down the baseline on the strong side, and along the arc off a double screen from Pierce and Ray to shake Bibby.
Shaq waits patiently with the ball, then gives it back to Nate upon his return. Everyone mobilizes to stop Nate from getting the shot (as much as Bibby can be said to mobilize for anything). But in the earlier kerfuffle, Paul snuck away to just inside the arc after setting the first screen for Nate: Marvin Williams catches on too late, and even when he does try to follow Pierce, KG is waiting for him with a savage pick. Nate dishes to Pierce, and scene.
Pierce had about ten feet of space for his shot the first time they ran it. The second time Williams saw it coming, but Pierce still lost him by going away from Garnett’s screen, and would have had an okay look if he hadn’t flubbed Nate’s pass a bit. Anyway, the moral of this story is don’t describe a play without video, pictures, or telestrator technology, which I understand we’re working on.
But you guys don’t want to hear about business. You want to know what Brian and Brendan look like. Here’s an amateur sketch I made of them:
I don’t think I have to tell you which is which.